If we are to test prophecy by its source, the question then becomes, “How can we tell the source of a prophetic word?” James 3: 13-18 answer the question.
¶ Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Prophecies of Edification, Exhortation and Comfort.
The categories of usefulness in prophecy are edification, exhortation, comfort, prediction, rebuke and direction. If a prophecy is in the edification, exhortation, or comfort category, we need to ask: what is the prophecy producing? What is it its fruit? Is it producing confusion, bitterness, envy, selfish ambition, boasting or denying the truth? Is there uneasiness, doubt or concern in your spirit? If so, the source of the prophecy is not God. As James tells us, it is either earthly (of the human soul or spirit) unspiritual or it is of the devil. The tree of death.
Or is the prophetic word peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful and full of good fruit? Is it impartial and sincere, does it “raise a harvest of righteousness”? is there joy, peace and an “amen” in your spirit? If so, it comes from God, the tree of life.
Prophecies of prediction, rebuke, or Guidance.
However, if the prophecy falls in the categories of prediction, rebuke or guidance, James scriptural exhortation is not a foolproof judgment criteria.
We all know that we Christians are not perfect. Occasionally the Lord uses a prophecy as His instrument to guider or rebukes us because of our sins. It is quite easy to see that if a person is in need of a rebuke from the Lord, then he or she would not receive the prophetic rebuke as “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful and full of good fruit,” nor would it be “impartial” to him. The same applies to one who receives prophetic guidance from the Lord of an unpleasant nature such as the prophetic Jonah receives. I refer you to the prophetic words of rebuke sent to the church in Laodicea;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
I’m quite certain the church of Laodicea was less than thrilled to receive the word!
The above principle may also at times apply to prophetic words of prediction since predictive prophecy may be either pleasing or unpleasing, Israel was happy to hear prophecies predicting their future restoration to glory, but the refused to receive prophecies predicting God’s discipline for there sins.
So we ask, “If the prophecy is predictive, rebuke of guidance, how may we know the source? How may we judge it?”
I believe the best judges of these kinds of prophetic words are objective, mature believers who know the person (or group) to who in the word is given and who know enough about the circumstances surrounding the prophetic word. Here again, one sees the absolution necessity, as well as the benefits, of having a prophecy judged by other matured Christians.
There are also times when the Lord will send a prophet to deliver one of these kinds of words to a church or denominational group. In this setting, probably the best judge of the correctness of the word would be the collective leadership of the church or large group. The pastor alone is usually not the best judge as he may not want to do what the word directs. But if the pastor of leader has surrounded himself with other matured believers who are not afraid to speak their mind, then this group should be able to judge the word. Of course, the leadership always has the option to taking the prophetic word to an outside person or group to also seek their counsel.
Very often a seemingly harsh word which is both a rebuke and directive is given. This can before either a group or an individual. An example of this kind of word to an individual is when a Christian man is not being a proper husband or father, the Lord mat well sound a prophetic word to him laying out his sin and directing him to do better. Certainly this kind of word rarely brings the fruit of love, peace, joy, etc. to a wayward husband’s spirit. But, as he tells his pastor, wife or best friends about the word, they can readily see its truth and can then lovely affirm and reinforce it.
In like manner, the Lord may on occasion send a word of direction or rebuke to a church that comes against a direction that the church leadership has taken. There may even be sin in the church leadership that is ignored or overlooked. Certainly such words of rebuke or direction would not bring James” “love and peace,” would it? But other church leaders from outside that church will reachly see such a word as from the Lord.
The prophetic mixture
One more factor must be considered when judging prophecy. Most of all prophecy we hear today is a “mixture.” By mixture, I refer again to the three source s of prophecy: the divine, the human and the demonic.
Hopefully, most of the prophecy we hear today is a mixture of the divine and human. God speak’s humanity to be heard. Certainly prophecy will contain the speaker’s perception of God’s word, qualify of voice, accent, figures of speech, etc. these all becomes part of the speaker’s word.
Mixtures of human and divine are acceptable. The more experienced the speaker becomes at prophesying, the more pure the prophecies become-less human and more divine. It is like eating fish; we judge and then “eat the meat and leave the bones.”
But there is also mixture of the demonic and human. Demonic, demons like to play “god” if the human vessel is not a mature Christian who is well grounded in the scripture, he or she may, from time to time, be duped into speaking a “prophetic word” which has the demonic realm as its source. This is particularly true if the speaker has strong pride and / or an unteachable spirit. Remember Apostle Paul and Silas and the slave girl who followed them? Such prophecies sound good to the undiscerning ear. But to the mature hearer, the demonic source mixture will seldom do so in the company of many mature Christians. They favor a small group or private—one on one-and often caution the hearers against submitting the prophecy to others for judgment saying things like, “others won’t understand the word…it is only for special people. You’re special.”
If any portion of a prophecy is demonic, the entire prophecy is to be rejected. Why? I don’t believe that there will ever be mixture of divine and demonic because I do not believe that God will jointly participate in anything of a demonic origin. Thus, at best we have a mixture of human and demonic. There is absolutely no point in accepting any of that combination because there is nothing of God in it. This is true even if scriptural is quoted during the prophetic word. If that kind of prophecy comes in an assembly, a public declaration of rejected must be made.
THE PROPHETIC MANNERISMS
The prophetic mannerism is peculiarity of behavior, speech, etc, excessive use of a distinctive manner in act or literature in which a prophetic word can be delivered.
Was the prophecy “Delivered in Love”?
Occasionally a prophetic word comes forth with an apparent harshness. Or it may even an angry tone. I have heard many Christians categorically reject such word because they “weren’t deliverer in love.” “My Jesus is a loving Jesus” they would say. “His “seven woes” address to Israel’s religious leaders! (Matt 23) are we to imagine that Jesus doesn’t do that any more? Are we to imagine that there are equally sinful situations in His church today and He responds only with loving mercy? The Bible does say that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)
No, a harsh to ne of voice in which a prophecy is delivered is not a p[roper basis upon which we may reject it.
Personality and mannerisms
I have know of Christians to reject prophecies delivered by a person who has distracting or offensive mannerisms. These mannerisms may include such thing as poor grammatical speech, speaking with a “whiny” voice, frequently repeating such phases as, “I say unto you,”and so forth.
When I first began to hear prophecies, all who prophesied spoke in King James ENGLISH BECAUSE THE King James Version was the dominant Bible of that day! In fact, in those days, I heard some Christians reject prophecy because it wasn’t delivered in King James English. “It couldn’t be the Lord…it wasn’t in King James English.”
One who tends to reject a prophecy because it was delivered in an unpleasing manner needs to read Isaiah, chapter 20. For three years the Lord sent Isaiah to deliver His word stripped of clothing and barefoot:
2 At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
3 And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia;
4 So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.
The King James translation says Isaiah was “naked.” Verse four in the NIV seen to agree with that. Now I ask you, would such a prophecy delivered in your church on Sunday morning by a naked prophet be offensive? I imagine the answer is “yes,” it would. Does that make it a false prophecy? No, not necessarily. We simply do not have a license to reject prophecy because it is delivered in a manner we find personally offensive.
Now I am not condoning offensive mannerisms. I am merely stating that we must be careful that such mannerisms, in and of themselves, do not cause us to reject prophetic words. If we are in the habit of rejecting such words, we may well be rejecting the word of the Lord. Beloveth be vigilant in the Lord and in His power.
PROPHECY DURING CHURCH SERVICE:
Once a person or prophet is aware that God is giving him a prophetic word, there is an excitement generated in the person’s spirit. As the person or prophet began to speak the few word there immediately begins the flow of the remaining words until the prophecy is complete. How well he or she prophesies obviously varies based on the experience and faith of the individual. Apostle Paul said “if man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion of his faith.”
The matter of when to delver a prophetic word, during the church service is also critical. If the Holy Spirit is in control of the service, He will make an opportunity for the person to speak. But if “man” is running the service, there may not be a proper or good time to speak to “force” or “push” an opening in the service. Nor should he or she interrupt one who is speaking or otherwise ministering.
Moreover, if the Holy Spirit is directing the service, the word delivered will harmonize with the content of the service. Again, however, if “man” is running the service, the word delivered may often “cut” across, or not harmonize with the rest of the service.
Apostle Paul also gave a general rule limiting the number of prophecies in church service. He said, “two or three prophets should speak…” (1 cor. 14:29) I don’t believe this passage contains a rule which is to be rigidly obeyed. Rather I think it sets forth a guideline for orderliness of service. Apostle Paul went on to say, “but everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” Apostle Paul wisely tells us, “for God is not a god of disorder but of peace.”
PROPHETS AS SPEAKERS
Prophets are often speakers. Most have an ability to preach and teach. Therefore prophets words are often delivered form pulpit in the form of a preached message. Seasoned, matured prophets usually speak with a powerful anointing that is easily discerned by all.
PROPHET IN A COUNSELLING OFFICE
When a prophet is in a counseling setting office, very often he or she gives a “prophetic word” to the counselee. No, it isn’t usually delivered as a prophecy but it nonetheless is the word from the Lord and should be regarded as such. It takes discerning ears to recognize such counsel as the prophetic word.
The majority of prophecy in today’s church is verbal. By that I mean prophecies which are spoken forth as a “word form God” during a church service.
However, scripture contain some instances in which God directed His prophets to act out His words in the midst of His people. It seems that God used this action out as a means of placing emphasis on the prophetic word. Let’s look at two examples from Ezekiel and Jeremiah:
1 ¶ And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair.
2 Thou shalt burn with fire a third part in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled: and thou shalt take a third part, and smite about it with a knife: and a third part thou shalt scatter in the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them.
3 Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts. 4 Then take of them again, and cast them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire; for thereof shall a fire come forth into all the house of Israel.
7 ¶ O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.
8 For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.
9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
It appears that the prophet most often simply “knows” that the Lord has spoken to him and that he must convert the message.
Most of the time, God speaks to prophets through Revelation, and Revelation brings light in any situation, while Revelation leads us out in any situation and circumstance.
God’s ways is uncountable in term of solution to any situation. He uses Revelations most of the time to help us to find out solutions, and He always willing to help His human agent, the faithful and matured prophets.